Thursday, January 24, 2013

School attorney Dan Shinoff reverses course after failed attempt to conceal how much San Ysidro Schools pays his firm

School attorney Dan Shinoff

Good work, Union-Tribune! After years of helping local schools conceal events, the UT has decided to cover the story of legal tactics used by our schools. All it took was 15 indictments of board members, employees and others connected with our schools. However, Mr. Shinoff's firm Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz continues its lawsuit against this blogger for revealing actions by the firm. Incidentally, Dan Shinoff has recently reduced his ownership share of his own firm.


San Ysidro to hand over legal bills
By Jeff McDonald
San Diego Union-Tribune
JAN. 23, 2013

San Ysidro School District officials, two of whom have been indicted on corruption charges, have reversed course and will release copies of legal bills in a civil lawsuit after The Watchdog cited a recent appeals court ruling on the matter.

The district will block out certain information that would divulge legal strategies, but will allow taxpayers to see the bills themselves.

"The legal interpretation on this matter has changed," attorney Daniel R. Shinoff wrote to The Watchdog today.

[Maura Larkins comment: I believe that reasonable people have long interpreted the statute exactly as the Second District Court of Appeal did.]

Shinoff on Monday answered a California Public Records Act request filed by The Watchdog with a brief response claiming the legal bills are private.

“After review, the District objects to your request as invasive of the attorney work product doctrine and the attorney-client privilege,” Shinoff wrote. “Accordingly, there are no non-privileged documents responsive to your request.”

In reply, The Watchdog drew Shinoff's attention to a Second District Court of Appeal case in November. The judge ruled against Los Angeles County, which attempted to reject a public-records request for legal bills citing the same Government Code section that Shinoff cited, 6254 (b), regarding pending litigation.

“The dominant purpose for preparing the documents was not for use in litigation but as part of normal record keeping and to facilitate the payment of attorney fees on a regular basis,” the court ruled. "That such documents may have an ancillary use in litigation – for example, in connection with a request for attorney fees – does not undermine the substantial evidence before the trial court that the dominant purpose of the records was not for use in litigation."

Hours after The Watchdog's email, Shinoff responded to acknowledge that the case applies to the San Ysidro records.

"Based on this recent ruling, the District will amend its response and produce the requested records," he wrote.

Shinoff is defending the district in an $18 million civil case filed last year by Eco-Business Alliance, which claims that school officials reneged on a deal to develop solar power projects at district schools.

As part of that case, Superintendent Manuel Paul admitted in a taped deposition last summer that he accepted $2,500 in cash in a steakhouse parking lot from a contractor seeking to do business with the district. He later said the money was a campaign contribution for school board member Yolanda Hernandez.

The transaction is being reviewed by federal investigators and state campaign finance watchdogs.

Paul and Hernandez are among 15 school officials and contractors who were indicted in December by a grand jury investigating corruption allegations in South County schools. They are expected to enter pleas on Jan. 30.



ORIGINAL STORY BY JEFF MCDONALD

This story details Dan Shinoff's first response to public records requests by the UT.

San Ysidro schools conceal legal bills
By Jeff McDonald
JAN. 23, 2013

San Ysidro School District officials, two of whom have been indicted on corruption charges, are rejecting a request that they disclose how much they are spending on lawyers to defend against a civil lawsuit.

Attorney Daniel Shinoff answered a California Public Records Act request filed by The Watchdog earlier this month with a brief response on Monday saying the legal bills are private.

“After review, the District objects to your request as invasive of the attorney work product doctrine and the attorney-client privilege,” Shinoff wrote. “Accordingly, there are no non-privileged documents responsive to your request.”

The Second District Court of Appeal in November ruled against Los Angeles County, which attempted to reject a public-records request for legal bills citing the same Government Code section that Shinoff is citing, 6254 (b), regarding pending litigation.

“The dominant purpose for preparing the documents was not for use in litigation but as part of normal record keeping and to facilitate the payment of attorney fees on a regular basis,” the court ruled. "That such documents may have an ancillary use in litigation – for example, in connection with a request for attorney fees – does not undermine the substantial evidence before the trial court that the dominant purpose of the records was not for use in litigation."

Shinoff has not yet responded to a follow-up request for an explanation about why he considers the appellate case not to apply to his bills to the San Ysidro district. His response will be added to this posting when it is received.

Shinoff is defending the district in an $18 million civil case filed last year by Eco-Business Alliance, which claims that school officials reneged on a deal to develop solar power projects at district schools.

As part of that case, Superintendent Manuel Paul admitted in a taped deposition last summer that he accepted $2,500 in cash in a steakhouse parking lot from a contractor seeking to do business with the district. He later said the money was a campaign contribution for school board member Yolanda Hernandez.

The transaction is being reviewed by federal investigators and state campaign finance watchdogs.

Paul and Hernandez are among 15 school officials and contractors who were indicted in December by a grand jury investigating corruption allegations in South County schools. They are expected to enter pleas on Jan. 30.

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